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17% of all food available to consumers is wasted: UN Report

Nearly 1 billion tonnes of food sold to households, retailers, restaurants and other food services was wasted in 2019, finds new United Nations Environment Programme report.

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Food Waste
March 4 2021
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In a new report published by UN, an estimated 931 million tonnes of food went into the waste bins of households, retailers, restaurants and other food services in 2019 alone. The figure accounts for 17 percent of the food produced for human consumption each year. The scale of the issue is enormous as per the report, which noted that the research was conducted to support global efforts to halve food waste by 2030.

The Food Waste Index Report 2021, from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and partner organisation WRAP, looks at food waste that occurs in retail outlets, restaurants and homes. The report presents a comprehensive food waste data collection, analysis and modelling to date, and offers a methodology for countries to measure food waste. 152 food waste data points were identified in 54 countries.

As per the report, in nearly every country that has measured food waste, it was substantial, regardless of income level. It shows that most of this waste comes from households, which discard 11 percent of the total food available at the consumption stage of the supply chain. Food services and retail outlets waste 5 percent and 2 percent respectively. The report also reveals that the global average of 74 kg per capita of food wasted each year is remarkably similar from lower-middle income to high-income countries, suggesting that most countries have room to improve.

“Reducing food waste would cut greenhouse gas emissions, slow the destruction of nature through land conversion and pollution, enhance the availability of food and thus reduce hunger and save money at a time of global recession,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. “If we want to get serious about tackling climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste, businesses, governments and citizens around the world have to do their part to reduce food waste.”

With 690 million people affected by hunger in 2019, a number expected to rise sharply with Covid-19, and three billion people unable to afford a healthy diet, consumers need help to reduce food waste at home, as per the statement.   

“For a long time, it was assumed that food waste in the home was a significant problem only in developed countries,” said Marcus Gover, CEO of WRAP. “With the publication of the Food Waste Index report, we see that things are not so clear cut.

“With only 9 years to go, we will not achieve SDG 12 Target 3 if we do not significantly increase investment in tackling food waste in the home globally. This must be a priority for governments, international organisations, businesses and philanthropic foundations,” he added.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 12.3 aims at halving per-capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reducing food losses along production and supply chains. One of the two indicators for the target is the Food Waste Index. A growing number of countries have measured food waste in recent years. The reports found that 14 countries already have household food waste data collected in a way that is compatible with the Food Waste Index. A further 38 countries have household food waste data where small changes in methodology, geographical coverage or sample size would allow them to create an SDG 12.3-compatible estimate. A total of 54 countries had data for at least one of the three sectors covered by the report.

To build on the work of the report, UNEP said it will launch regional working groups to help build countries’ capabilities to measure food waste in time for the next round of SDG 12.3 reporting in late 2022, and support them to develop national baselines to track progress towards the 2030 goal, and design national strategies to prevent food waste.  


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